Build an integrated print workflow solution: strategies for success
By Jim Barnes, Chief IT Implementation Officer
March 28, 2022
Workflow hides in plain sight. It’s the infrastructure that supports every activity, and it is most powerful when all components are standardized, integrated, and automated. A review of workflow modules and features reveals integration points that allow data to flow among the business and production systems. While you may have some automated integration points today, advancements in software enable new options you should consider. Automated integration is essential to the health of the business. A review of those integration points and identification of your options for creating an automated, end-to-end workflow solution that shares data across the entire business and production system is essential to achieving operational excellence. And it doesn’t have to be difficult to define or implement.
Build a Workflow Integration Strategy
Integration points are a great start, but if you develop an integration strategy, you will be able to approach every new software installation and upgrade from a position of strength. The best practice for an integration strategy is to identify the master source of the data and leverage software with pre-defined integration and standard APIs to move the data as part of an automated business and workflow process solution.
Test every project against that integration strategy by identifying integration points and the type of data each point exchanges. Elimination of custom code and scripts when a standard API or pre-defined automated integration is available creates long-term business benefits, lowering the total cost of ownership with more supportable systems and potentially reducing down-time.
Without a strategy, integration becomes a free-for-all, with everyone focused on what they believe is essential, sometimes at the expense of a better solution, potentially creating more manual processes. When every pain point is treated equally and competes for mindshare, the focus will be on custom code and departmental efficiencies without considering the benefits of the overall automated business and workflow processes.
A strategy should be an active process, including a regular cadence of workflow and integration reviews. Those reviews are the gateway to uncovering gaps and resolving known issues in current and planned integrations. You may find that the work needed to create seamless integration hasn’t been completed as expected. Partly installed workflow suites, islands of custom code (usually undocumented), and incomplete integrations may be the source of bottlenecks and delivery delays, but also invoicing mistakes. You may find that data feeds that should be connected are missing, causing team members to enter needed data manually or make decisions without relevant data.
Incomplete integrations can stem from running out of professional services budget, inability to find integration resources, or difficulties working with legacy blocks of code. Without a strategy, it is easy to miss budget items needed for the ongoing work required to maintain and improve the workflow. Partial integrations linger, never realizing the promise of operational efficiency. Even in a JDF-certified workflow, if the integration points aren’t connected, data cannot flow and inform, so there are no benefits of true integration. Aligning your integration strategy with best practices can help reduce the pitfalls of legacy, manual, and custom integrations.
The strategy review may uncover more than incomplete projects. It may uncover multiple software products intended to accomplish the same tasks. Multiple web-to-print and digital storefront variations may exist alongside elements of estimating, scheduling, inventory management, and shop floor data collection tools from partially installed suites and departmental acquisitions meant to solve specific challenges. Workflow efficiency is very difficult to achieve in this environment.
When multiple tools exist, they each work in their own way. They gather data and pass it on in ways specific to their architectures. Two different web-to-print environments can be gathering specifications and passing them using parameters with different names and formats. Products may use different naming conventions for files and profiles. Every variation can cause mistakes and delays. This is how directories filled with custom code that may not be aging gracefully continue to grow and add costs since they must be maintained and reviewed with every software update.
For businesses with multiple locations, a strategy is even more critical. Gaps are magnified. People spend time resolving the differences, or they write more custom code to try to normalize them. And there may be elements of essential business information kept in private spreadsheets and later re-keyed into primary business systems.
A best practice integration strategy will lead you to a true end-to-end workflow and business solution that doesn’t rely on custom code, proprietary appliances and servers, or teams of professional services contractors with limited knowledge of the products, all working to a budget. This is the time to look for a single partner with a comprehensive solution and a team ready to create your integration success.
Define Your Integration Plan
An integrated workflow is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than connecting discrete solutions because simple connections may not provide the best support for the workflow architecture. Instead, adopt the best practices that ensure that all systems of record can share data. Look for solutions that provide seamless, end-to-end business integration, not just production shop integration.
The KODAK PRINERGY on Demand Business Solution is the only solution in the market meeting these integration requirements. With Microsoft and PrintVIS forming a solid solution with Prinergy, there is no need to hire an army of integration contractors or IT experts because Kodak’s implementation process takes the guesswork out of the process. The Kodak solution includes the necessary integration out of the box to deliver a complete end-to-end business system. We evaluate the existing environment, work with you on strategic goals, and rapidly build a solution highlighting the value of integration using your data. We get printers up and running quickly by building your team’s confidence in every step from planning to execution. One vendor. One solution. Complete integration.
Your advantage is the platform, which is cloud-based for flexibility and scalability. Working with the Microsoft platform provides integration with both Microsoft 365 and Teams, two of the most widely used business tools. It also brings PowerBI to the integration, ensuring that every member of the team has access to the dashboards needed for both simple and complex business decisions. Going forward, the data locked inside MIS and ERP systems is freed to work for the entire business bringing operational efficiency to every department.
With PRINERGY on Demand workflow you are connected today and tomorrow. Building on the industry-leading Microsoft platform the connections remain constant as new features are added. The result is reliability, scalability, and efficiency. Sales teams know that their data is accurate, estimations are based on current costs, and discount rates are optimized for the business. Production management has the information they need for task and machine scheduling, and inventory replenishment. Management has the overview they require and the ability to do deep dives by department as they look for growth opportunities. The result is an empowered, integrated workflow solution, where every function connects to future-proof your business.